Alexandria, Virginia, a port city on the Potomac River, just below Washington, D.C., is often celebrated for its rich industrial history. As early as the 18th century, its lively waterfront became a bustling hub of tobacco trade, hemp and flour exports, and, as time passed, manufacturing. Often overlooked—or, perhaps, just told in a separate chapter of the history book—is the fact that Alexandria was also an epicenter of domestic slave trade, with one of the largest slave markets in the U.S.
So when Brooklyn-based artist and architect Olalekan Jeyifous was tapped by the City of Alexandria to create a public installation in Waterfront Park (1 Prince Street), he decided to confront the issue head-on.
“Stories that are uncomfortable are often sidelined,” explains Jeyifous, who learned about the city’s role in the slave trade while researching Alexandria’s industries and meeting with local community groups. “I wanted to make something that combined these histories into one narrative.”